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– The Virginia wrestling team finished in third place Saturday at the 2011 ACC Wrestling Championship, contested at UVa’s John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers racked up 69 team points. With five individual champions, Maryland pulled the upset and won the team title with 94.5 points, while favorite Virginia Tech took second place with 82.5 points.

By virtue of their respective finishes Saturday, five Virginia wrestlers earned automatic bids to the 2011 NCAA Championships, set for March 17-19 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Virginia’s Matt Snyder (125), Nick Nelson (141), Derek Valenti (149), Chris Henrich (174) and Jon Fausey (184) all earned automatic bids for the NCAA Championships. At-large berths will be determined this week by the NCAA Wrestling Committee.

Four Cavaliers reached the finals, but none finished on top of the awards podium – Matt Snyder (R-So., Lewistown, Pa.) at 125 pounds, Joe Spisak (Fr., Boiling Springs, Pa.) at 133, Derek Valenti (Jr., Newton, N.J.) at 149 and Chris Henrich (Sr., Lansdale, Pa.) at 174.

As was the case last season, all 10 Virginia wrestlers placed fourth or better. Nick Nelson (R-Jr., Pittsburgh, Pa.) took third place with a valiant effort at 141 pounds. In just his second week back in action after missing two months with an injury, the fifth-seeded Nelson twice defeated second-seeded Chris Diaz of Virginia Tech – both in dramatic fashion. In the first round, Nelson went to double overtime before outlasting Diaz, 6-5. In the third-place bout, Nelson scored a takedown just before the final buzzer to rally and win 3-2 to punch his ticket to NCAAs.

At 184 pounds Fausey earned the ACC’s third auto bid at the class. He rebounded from a disappointing semifinal loss to beat second-seeded Antonio Giorgio, 5-3, in the consolation semis before defeating NC State’s Quinton Godley in a marathon match in the third-place bout. The two battled through two tiebreaker periods; Fausey racked up 12 more seconds of riding time to claim the win and his first NCAA berth.

Virginia held the team score lead midway through the semifinal round and was rolling along until a rough three-match stretch to end the semifinals basically ruined the Cavaliers’ shot at the team title. In consecutive matches two top-seeded Cavalier wrestlers were upset – Jon Fausey (R-Fr., Dalmatia, Pa.) at 184 and Mike Salopek (R-So., North Huntingdon, Pa.) at 197 – and Jack Danilkowicz (Sr., Green Oaks, Ill.) lost on a last-second takedown at heavyweight.

Fausey led most of the way in his bout with Duke’s Diego Bencomo, but during a late, wild scramble he gave up a takedown with just a second left in third period in falling 4-3. Things spiraled for UVa, as an injured Salopek struggled while dropping a 12-4 major decision to Virginia Tech’s Chris Penny, whom Salopek topped 5-1 during the regular season. Danilkowicz was tied 1-1 with Maryland’s Spencer Myers before giving up a takedown with a second remaining.

UVa put four wrestlers in the championship round. Snyder locked up in a tight battle with top-seeded Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech in the 125 final. Garnett held a 4-3 lead at the end of regulation, but Snyder racked up 1:01 in riding time to gain a point and send the bout to sudden-victory time. Garnett earned the championship after going in with a double-leg shot for the takedown 25 seconds into overtime.

At 133 pounds Spisak pulled an upset of second-seeded Lou Ruland of Maryland in the semifinals, avenging a Ruland pin during the regular season. Spisak was defeated by the top seed, Devin Carter of Virginia Tech, in a 19-4 technical fall in the championship match.

At 149 pounds Valenti gave No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Darrion Caldwell all he could handle before falling 6-3. Valenti just missed a takedown attempt early in the final period as Caldwell barely wiggled out of his grasp. Through the scramble Caldwell held control and built up over a minute of riding time to earn that point. After Valenti escaped with 15 seconds remaining in the period, Caldwell was charged a penalty point for his second stall warning. Valenti was unable to score in the waning seconds, and Caldwell notched a takedown with seconds remaining for the 6-3 final as he became just the sixth wrestler in ACC history to win four league championships.

At 174 pounds Henrich fell behind 2-0 on an early Letts takedown, and Letts promptly racked up 1:30 in riding time before a Henrich escape. Letts picked up an escape point in the second and Henrich did the same, but Letts was able to stave off Henrich’s late charge to nab his third ACC championship while denying Henrich the same. The loss snapped a 16-match win streak for Henrich, who dropped to 30-2 this year.

Virginia’s Automatic NCAA Qualifiers
125 – Matt Snyder
141 – Nick Nelson
149 – Derek Valenti
174 – Chris Henrich
184 – Jon Fausey

Final Team Scores
1. Maryland, 94.5
2. Virginia Tech, 82.5
3. Virginia, 69.0
4. North Carolina, 37.0
5. NC State, 34.5
6. Duke, 9.0

2011 ACC Championship Weight Class Finals
(Each weight class winner and runner-up named All-ACC)
125 – Jarrod Garnett (VT) def. Matt Snyder (VA), 6-4 (SV)
133 – Devin Carter (VT) tech. fall Joe Spisak (VA), 19-4
141 – Jon Kohler (MD) def. Darrius Little (NCS), 3-1 (SV)
149 – Darrion Caldwell (NCS) def. Derek Valenti (VA), 5-3
157 – Jesse Dong (VT) def. Kyle John (MD), 6-3
165 – Josh Asper (MD) def. Pete Yates (VT), 9-3
174 – Mike Letts (MD) def. Chris Henrich (VA), 3-2
184 – Corey Peltier (MD) def. Diego Bencomo (DU), 3-1
197 – Zac Bennett (NC) def. Chris Penny (VT), 9-5
285 – Spencer Myers (MD) def. David Marone (VT), 3-2 (TB2)

Virginia’s Results
125 Pounds – No. 2 seed Matt Snyder (2nd)

Semis – Snyder dec. Shane Gentry (MD), 7-3
Finals – No. 1 Jarrod Garnett (VT) dec. Snyder, 6-4 (SV)

133 Pounds – No. 2 Joe Spisak (2nd)
Semis – Spisak dec. Lou Ruland (MD), 6-4
Finals -No. 1 Devin Carter (VT) tech fall Snyder, 19-4

141 Pounds -No. 5 Nick Nelson (3rd)
First Round – Nelson dec. No. 2 Chris Diaz (VT), 6-5 (TB2)
Semis – Darius Little (NCSU) dec. Nelson, 5-2
Consolation Semis – Nelson major dec. No. 6 Mike Bell (Duke), 10-1
Consolation Finals – Nelson dec. Diaz, 3-2

149 Pounds – No. 2 Derek Valenti (2nd)
First Round – Valenti major dec. AJ Guardado (Duke), 8-0
Semis – Valenti dec. No. 3 Brian Stephens (VT), 3-1
Finals – No. 1 Darrion Caldwell (NC State) dec. Valenti, 6-3

157 Pounds – No. 5 Shawn Harris (4th)
First Round – No. 2 Kyle John (MD) dec. Harris, 6-0
Consolation Semis – Harris dec. Colton Palmer (NCSU), 9-4
Consolation Finals – No. 3 Corey Mock (UNC) dec. Harris, 7-2

165 Pounds – No. 4 Jedd Moore (4th)
First Round – Moore major dec. Nigel Jones (NC State), 15-3
Semis – No. 1 Josh Asper (MD) major dec. Moore, 12-3
Consolation Semis – Moore pinned Willy Mello (Duke), 2:13
Consolation Finals – No. 3 Thomas Scotton (UNC) dec. Moore, 7-2

174 Pounds – No. 1 Chris Henrich (2nd)
First Round – Henrich pinned No. 6 Colin Genthert (NC State), 1:14
Semis – Henrich major dec. No. 4 Matt Epperly (VT), 13-1
Finals – No. 2 Mike Letts (MD) dec. Henrich, 4-2

184 Pounds – No. 1 Jon Fausey (3rd)
First Round – Fausey dec. No. 6 Quinton Godley (NCSU), 7-2
Semis – No. 4 Diego Bencomo (Duke) dec. Fausey, 4-3
Consolation Semis – Fausey dec. No. 2 Antonio Giorgio (UNC), 5-3
Consolation Finals – Fausey dec. Godley, Dec. 3-3, RT (TB2)

197 Pounds – No. 1 Mike Salopek (4th)
First Round -Salopek pinned KaRonne Jones (NCSU), 3:25
Semis – No. 4 Chris Penny (VT) major dec. Salopek, 12-4
Consolation Finals – No. 3 Christian Boley (MD) dec. Salopek, 5-2

285 Pounds – No. 3 Jack Danilkowicz (4th)
Semis – No. 2 Spencer Myers (MD) dec. Danilkowicz, 3-1
Consolation Semis – Danilkowicz dec. No. 5 Andrew Fulk (Duke), 5-3
Consolation Finals -No. 4 Eloheim Palma (NC State) dec. Danilkowicz, 3-2

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